This week brought news from two VCs focused on backing startups operating in the real estate technology industry: Fifth Wall Ventures launched with a $212 million fund, and Moderne Ventures closed its debut vehicle on $33 million.
The burgeoning sector has received a lot of attention in recent months, but people in the real estate industry—realtors, mortgage brokers, homebuyers, etc.—have been taking advantage of tech advances for years.
“It’s suddenly in fashion, but I’ve been investing in the industry since 2008,” Constance Freedman (right), founder of Moderne Ventures, told PitchBook. “There are definitely more investors out there now, but there have always been a lot of companies in this space.”
Investment in real estate service companies has risen steadily over the last five years. VCs disbursed about $44 million to the industry in 2012, and by 2016, that figure had jumped to at least $1.5 billion.
The diverse real estate tech market
Some of the companies in the real estate tech space are based squarely in the real estate market, such as listing platform Redfin, which raised a $71 million round in late 2014 at a valuation of $813 million, and WeWork, the co-working space provider that was recently valued at $18 billion with a massive $300 million round.
Investors have also shown interest in startups that interact with the real estate industry in various ways, such as services that streamline the purchase or rental process, or companies that work to make physical spaces more appealing. (Those company types aren't necessarily reflected in the graph above.)
Freedman, who started her career as a realtor then moved into startup operations before becoming a VC investor, said Moderne, headquartered in Chicago, is particularly excited about portfolio companies that may fall outside the classically defined real estate space but still have applications within it. Such companies include electronic signature company DocuSign (valued at $3 billion in 2015), digital mortgage startup Better Mortgage and TaskEasy, the provider of on-demand lawn-care and snow removal services.
“When you look across these companies, you say, this isn’t really real estate tech,” Freedman said. “But the credibility and services they provide to the industry is really strong. All of our investments have applicability within the business.”
Fifth Wall’s list of investments shows a mix of true real-estate tech companies and startups that support the physical environment, something the firm calls the “Built World.” Los Angeles-based Fifth Wall has invested in Opendoor (valued at $1 billion in 2016), a tech startup that buys and resells houses, and various companies that are related to real estate, such as online notary platform Notarize and storage startup Clutter.
The more technology is created, the more it can be applied to the real estate industry. We'll be keeping an eye on the growing real estate tech industry as investment and innovation in the space rises.